The Fire Hose

Covering the news of the day at Microsoft

August, 2013

  • Hear the difference – Xbox One will use Skype’s audio codec

    One of the things we all have to look forward to with Xbox One is the incredible improvement made to voice chat with the integration of Skype’s audio codec. Not only does the codec have a proven track record of high-quality voice through billions of hours of use through Skype, in Xbox One it also has dedicated audio processing for conversations via Skype and multiplayer party chats.

    Bottom line, Xbox One offers higher quality voice chat with the Xbox One Chat Headset compared to Xbox 360, whether you’re chatting in-game or through party chat with Skype on Xbox One.

  • Protect your privacy in the cloud – a guide

    Any time you post, send or create something via a Web browser or an app, the information goes from your computer or phone to the cloud. This includes checking email, posting on social media sites, paying bills, playing games online and, yes, even shopping. And any time you hear “cloud” you hear questions about security and privacy.

  • Help prepare kids to go back to school with these Windows 8 apps that work well on Surface RT

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    Surface Senior Manager Kristen Batch just moved to Seattle from Chicago with her family, and in a post on the Surface Blog she explains how helpful the Surface RT has been in acclimating her two girls to the upcoming academic year in new schools.

    Batch writes, “Since I’m sharing my Surface with two pre-teens I’ve set up separate user accounts to prevent sibling warfare and give them each a sense of independence. The rule is for every 3 games you load, you have to add something educational. It puts them in the driver’s seat of their self-guided summer tutoring sessions so they’re less likely to complain about ‘mom’s picks.’ The separate accounts also give me peace of mind. I don’t have to worry about grabbing my Surface and facing a home screen that suddenly looks like a princess invaded my device.”

  • Worried about malicious apps? Here’s some good news from Windows Phone

    A release from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security about malware threats on mobile phones sparked some anxiety for smartphone users. As long as there are unscrupulous characters out there, there will be malware. However, that doesn’t mean you have to be a target.

  • Skype celebrates Mela, Europe’s largest South Asian festival

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    If you’re in London on Sunday, you can attend London Mela, Europe’s largest South Asian festival. It’s free, and as Skype’s Big Blog describes it, “has become a major celebration throughout the global South Asian diaspora.”

    Now in its 11th year, the festival will have nine event zones where revelers can enjoy contemporary and classical music, outdoor arts, dance, sports, fashion, children’s activities and food from around the world.

  • Skype in the Classroom takes a bow during anniversary week

    Skype’s education program, Skype in the Classroom, allows children to experience events from around the globe, from the top of Mt. Everest to the bottom of the sea. Skype makes it possible for students in China to practice language skills and share customs with their peers in Chicago, and for NASA scientists to show students firsthand how to prepare a space vehicle for takeoff.

    More than 66,000 teachers around the world use Skype to make learning more engaging for their students, and to help students learn remotely when they can’t make it to school. Head over to the Skype Social Good blog for more about the ways Skype helps teachers enrich learning for their students.

  • Players battle for $200,000 grand prize in ‘Halo 4’ global championship finals at PAX Prime 2013

    From Friday to Sunday, over 140 of the best “Halo 4” players in the world will converge in Seattle at PAX Prime 2013 and engage in battle for more than $300,000 in cash – including a $200,000 grand prize – at the “Halo 4” Global Championship Finals.

    Xbox Wire talked to some professional “Halo 4” gamers -- Eric “Snip3down” Wrona, Eric “GH057ayame” Hewitt and Sean “Dersky” Swidersky – and posted their thoughts on the tournament.

  • Standing together for greater transparency

    The following is a post from Brad Smith, General Counsel and Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Microsoft. It was originally published on Microsoft on the Issues.


    To followers of technology issues, there are many days when Microsoft and Google stand apart.  But today our two companies stand together.  We both remain concerned with the Government’s continued unwillingness to permit us to publish sufficient data relating to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) orders.

    Each of our companies filed suit in June to address this issue.  We believe we have a clear right under the U.S. Constitution to share more information with the public.  The purpose of our litigation is to uphold this right so that we can disclose additional data.

    On six occasions in recent weeks we agreed with the Department of Justice to extend the Government’s deadline to reply to these lawsuits.  We hoped that these discussions would lead to an agreement acceptable to all.  While we appreciate the good faith and earnest efforts by the capable Government lawyers with whom we negotiated, we are disappointed that these negotiations ended in failure.

  • Award-winning PC game title ‘Warface’ is coming to Xbox 360

    Crytek and Microsoft Studios announced Thursday that “Warface,” the award-winning PC title, will arrive on consoles for the first time on Xbox 360 in early 2014.

    True to its pedigree, “Warface” will feature vivid graphics and gameplay for intense, first-person shooter action, enabling players to engage in competitive and cooperative battles with others around the world.

  • Catch an exclusive early peek at Crackle original film ‘Extraction’ on Windows Phone, Windows 8 and Xbox Live

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    If you’re already watching free movies and TV using the Crackle app on Xbox Live, or your Windows Phone or Windows 8 device, you’ve got another perk: an exclusive early pass to the world premiere of the new martial-arts-packed thriller starring Danny Glover and Sean Astin, “Extraction.” You can watch it for free now, a week before anybody else.

  • National Geographic photographer Stephen Alvarez goes on assignment with the Nokia Lumia 1020

    Want to be stunned by the photographic quality a smartphone can deliver? Check out "On assignment with the Nokia Lumia 1020" from National Geographic in partnership with Nokia. You’ll see how photographer Stephen Alvarez tackled a 10-day assignment to capture the American West – armed only with a Nokia Lumia 1020.

    The results are astounding, as chronicled in the article and the video above (all footage was captured on the Nokia Lumia 1020). And you’ll hear from a pro about what it’s like to use the new device. Approaching one shot of a storm off in the distance, Alvarez says, "Normally, I'd never try to capture an image like this with a phone because it requires so much resolution to successfully pull it off. But the 1020 has the pixel count and lens resolution to grab all the big clouds, big lightning, and big landscape in huge detail. I'm thrilled with it."

  • Work and play shine equally in the HP ENVY 23 TouchSmart PC

    Thinking of getting a new PC for the family? The HP ENVY 23 TouchSmart just might be the one you’ve been looking for.

    Consider that it has a 23-inch, full-HD touchscreen display and is powered by Windows 8. Your kids need to do their homework, it’s just the tool they’ll need. And with the upcoming release of Windows 8.1, they can work on a paper in Word on half the screen while viewing a website in Internet Explorer on the other half by snapping the two apps together. That’ll help them get their work done faster, which means more time for family entertainment.

  • Shared code makes it easy to create apps and games for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 PCs

    Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 share the same core, which makes developing apps and games easier than ever, accelerating development, test and publication time.

    The Windows Phone Developer Blog has a new post with several links to online video training and documentation for developers who want to design the best apps and games they can to take advantage of the platform’s shared core.

  • Pwn other gamers at PAX and win a free trip to Tokyo Game Show 2014!

    Hey gamers! Want to win a free trip to the Tokyo Game Show 2014?

    If you’re attending PAX Prime in Seattle, you’ll get your chance. You just have to show that you’ve got what it takes to post the highest score in a challenge that encompasses three of the most iconic Atari games: “Pong,” “Centipede” and “Asteroids.” (You might remember that in 2012, Internet Explorer and Atari debuted the Atari Arcade, which includes those game classics and more, all gorgeously reimagined in HTML5 for touch capability and the modern Web.)

    That’s right, it’s the Atari Arcade Battle Royale.

  • Phil Sorgen named leader of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Group

    On Thursday Microsoft announced that 17-year Microsoft veteran Phil Sorgen has been appointed corporate vice president of the company’s Worldwide Partner Group.

    Sorgen previously led Microsoft’s U.S. Small and Midmarket Solutions and Partners Group, and in his new role will manage a team of sales and marketing professionals tasked with helping Microsoft’s 620,000-strong partner community to capitalize on news areas of growth in cloud computing, mobility, big data and enterprise social technologies.

  • Racing simulator adds full motion to the mix

    If you’re really into racing games on your PC, you may have a multi-display setup, a wheel, maybe even some pedals. That gives you wrap-around visuals, car-like controls and force feedback. Not bad, but you may wonder what could boost the realism even further. Chris Stevenson asked that question and started tinkering, and the result is a Windows-based full-motion racing simulator that Chris calls “Project E.B.T.R.” – for “everything but the rims.”

    Watch the video and head over to the Extreme Windows Blog to find out why Stevenson favors games like “Dirt3” from Codemasters, how he built Project E.B.T.R., what’s behind the graphics of its very fluid and realistic panoramic gameplay experience, and more.

  • ‘Halo: Spartan Assault’ update adds 5 new missions, supports more Windows Phone devices

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    Halo: Spartan Assault,” the Halo franchise’s first installment built specifically for touch-based devices, continues to reveal more for fans, with an update Thursday that gives them Operation Hydra, a free game update with five new missions.

    The Windows Phone Blog reports that this is in addition to the 25 action-packed missions against the Covenant you already get with the game, which explores the origin of the Spartan Ops program and “Halo 4'” Spartan Commander, Sarah Palmer.

  • Skype celebrates 10 years, 300 million users and 1.4 trillion minutes of voice and video calls

    Back on August 29, 2003, Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis founded Skype, which was to become a key way to communicate for more than 300 million people worldwide. On Wednesday, Skype celebrated hitting the 10-year mark, and looked back at accomplishments and milestones.

    More than 1.4 trillion minutes of voice and video calls have been made using Skype. To put that number in perspective, it’s the equivalent of more than 2.6 million years of conversations – made in in just 10 years’ time. See the infographic for a decade of fascinating people, places and behaviors Skype has inspired.

  • Forza fans: Get rewarded for doing what you love

    Love to play Forza on Xbox? Then you’ll want to know about the new loyalty program that rewards you for racking up time on one of your favorite pastimes.

    Here’s how Forza Rewards works: When you play Forza games, you earn points. The more points you earn, the higher your tier level and, the higher your tier level, the better rewards you can earn. Each month, you can redeem rewards in games like “Forza Motorsport 4” and “Forza Horizon,” including cars, in-game credits and tokens.

  • App of the Week: Foursquare now available on Windows 8

    Our latest App of the Week is Foursquare, now available on Windows 8.The popular social app, which has over 35 million users worldwide, lets you find and “check in” at interesting places around you, as well as share photos, reviews and tips about your personal favorite spots.

  • Where oh where has my Video Call button gone?

    The Skype team’s Matthew de Beer wants to answer your questions about Skype. Earlier this month he wrote a post taking on frequently asked questions about Skype status. Recently he dug through more questions from Skype Support, and found two common queries related to the availability of video calls: “Why does the video call button have a red line through it?” and “Where has my video call button gone?”

    Find de Beers’ answers to these questions and more on the Tuesday posting on the Skype Tips & Tricks blog.

  • Build your app once, run it anywhere: PaaS for the modern Web arrives

    In developing the soon-to-arrive R2 Wave, Microsoft engineers closely examined what organizations need and want from the cloud. One theme they repeatedly heard was the desire to build an app once and have that app be able to live in any data center or cloud. Good news: That functionality is now here.

    Corporate Vice President for Windows Server and System Center Brad Anderson writes, “Whether your app is in a private, public or hosted cloud, the developers and IT Professionals in your organization will have consistency across clouds.”

  • 10 ways companies boost their business using Skype

    When most people think of Skype, they picture friends and family members bridging long distances to share a moment together. That’s an accurate image, but it’s missing a key aspect of Skype: it’s a powerful business tool too.

    As part of commemorating its 10-year anniversary, the Skype team on Wednesday posted 10 cool ways companies use Skype. Some use it to take prospective customers on a virtual tour, others to deliver training, while others use it to give customers a real person to talk to when a problem arises. Head over to Skype’s Workspace Blog to find out all the ways that made the top 10.

  • Another reason to attend PASS Summit 2013: Microsoft Certification testing!

    When did the “opportunity” to take a test become good news? The moment it meant you could advance your career – all while networking and building your SQL Server know-how. For the second year in a row, attendees of the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) Summit will be able to take Microsoft Certification exams at the conference.

  • Get up close with Xbox One at this weekend’s PAX Prime show in Seattle

    Attending the PAX Prime 2013 gaming show this weekend in Seattle? Be sure and stop by Xbox Booth #412 for the latest and greatest gaming and entertainment experiences. This Xbox Wire post gives you an overview of activities you’ll find exclusively at the Xbox booth Friday, Aug. 30 through Monday, Sept. 2.

    For starters, the booth will include 60 stations featuring dynamic and intense driving, fighting and shooting experiences coming with Xbox One. Also, on stage you’ll see demos of “Dead Rising 3,” “Project Spark,” “Kinect Sports Rivals,” “Fable Anniversary” and a 7.1 surround sound “Forza Motorsport 5” racing rig.